In calling for the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre to be
overhauled, Robert Campbell, the joint creative director of Rainey Kelly
Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, is publicly articulating the long-running private
moans of agency creatives about the TV watchdog.
Its alleged over-use of the blunt instrument in matters of taste and
decency has been the subject of countless debates in agency bars.
But the fact that a senior figure such as Campbell should have chosen
the TV 2000 conference in Lisbon to air his concerns is indicative of
the widespread disquiet about the BACC’s ability to do its job.
Of course, the relationship between the ad industry and the BACC will
always be adversorial. Creatives want to sail as close to the wind as
possible while the BACC is pulled every which way in its role as
gatekeeper for the most intrusive of advertising mediums.
To accuse it of being out of date and out of touch is a knee-jerk
reaction from creative directors who have just had scripts turned down.
It is equally easy and crass to claim that the BACC will not permit
advertisers the freedom allowed to programme makers.
Actually, it’s quite right to do so. Advertisers sell things and must be
denied some of the tools that dramatists, news reporters and documentary
producers need to make their points. Moreover, the BACC has a duty to
protect viewers, head off a hard core of ’professional’ complainers and
ensure that the playing field is level.
But Campbell has a point. The BACC needs extra resources to cope with
media fragmentation and the internet. And there is sufficient evidence
of bizarre and inconsistent rulings to suggest that it should be more in
tune with social mores.
Most creatives acknowledge that when the BACC has time to make a ruling,
its decisions are sensible. Unfortunately, when big TV agencies may need
clearance on up to 1,000 possible scripts a year, time is at a premium
and the temptation to be over-cautious is overwhelming.
The BACC is being swamped with work needing ever-faster response times.
It has to attract more staff who are not only high quality but well
motivated. That means money, something that TV companies are not short
of. And what about the BACC charging for every script submitted?